‘Encountered by the Word’– Coryal parish’s spiritual reading during Covid                 
June 15, 2021
Investing in fathers
June 15, 2021

Continue to welcome, protect, promote and integrate

By Delia Chatoor

By General Assembly Resolution 55/76 of February 12, 2001, the United Nations (UN) declared that “as from 2001, 20 June will be celebrated as World Refugee Day”.

It also noted “the crucial role of partnerships with Governments and international, regional and non-governmental organisations, as well as of the participation of refugees in decisions that affect their lives.”

As another World Refugee Day will be commemorated on  June 20, 2021, it should be recognised that there has been an increase in the number of persons seeking international protection.

At the global level, the 1951 UN Convention relating to the status of refugees (Geneva Convention) and the 1967 Protocol are the only international instruments applicable to refugees.

There are many organisations which have over the years sought to address the needs of refugees. In order to respond to the humanitarian needs of migrants, which include refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants, the three Components of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (The Components) have been working to “bridge protection and assistance gaps and reduce the suffering of vulnerable migrants at all stages of their journey.”

The Components’ activities are guided by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent (IFRC)’s Global Strategy of Migration (2018–2022).

The activities are humanitarian in nature and reflect the evolving international climate so that plans are afoot to expand the existing policies from 2023. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, more intense natural disasters, ongoing armed conflicts as well as climate change have, however, not deterred migrants from seeking safer havens and a better way of life.

In his address to the UN in 1979, St John Paul II recognised “the right to freedom of movement; the right to nationality and residence.” The Church’s social teaching recognises these with hospitality on the part of states receiving immigrants, particularly refugees, being encouraged.

Attention ought to be paid to their overall good with recognition of their rights under International Law. Scripture also provides additional messages on how strangers should be treated as found in the Mosaic Law: Leviticus 24:22 and 25; 35–36; and Exodus 22:21–22.

Of equal relevance is the message in the Letter to the Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

The call is for us to live Jesus’ call in Matthew 25:35: “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me” and respect the Church’s view that migrants should be protected, and their human dignity respected.

The Components’ use of a broad definition of ‘migrants’ has in no small measure been aligned with the recommendation made by Pope Francis in 2018 that there are four verbs which the Church should adopt when examining the concerns of the displaced and refugees: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

In his 2020 message on the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis observed that “when discussing migrants and displaced persons one must move beyond statistics and recognise that we must see them as real people.” One must consider the common good, balancing the needs of the community with individual needs.

On June 20, we should commit to work for that common good through collaboration and cooperation among states, international organisations, and civil society.

The stranger must be welcomed with Jesus present in all seeking support. The needs are great but a little can go a long way. We should not use the pandemic or global economic challenges to limit or curtail assistance.

The words of St Benedict are instructive: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”


Delia Chatoor is a retired foreign service officer and a Lay Minister of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando Parish.